Kenneth Kaunda, the first president of independent Zambia, died at 97, a position he held from 1964 to 1991. Kaunda died on Thursday in a hospital in Lusaka, the country’s capital, where he was being treated for pneumonia, his son wrote on the page officer of the former president. Kaunda was born on April 28, 1924 in the then Northern Rhodesia, the protectorate of the United Kingdom which after independence in 1964 was renamed Zambia; he became interested in politics in 1951 by becoming secretary of the Northern Rhodesian African National Congress (NRANC) political movement for the Northern Province, and two years later became its general secretary. Meanwhile, the United Kingdom merged the protectorates of Northern Rhodesia, Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and Nyasaland (now Malawi) into a single state.
He was jailed several times for his demonstrations against British colonialism, and in 1962 he ran for elections as a candidate for the United National Independence Party (UNIP). He won the election, formed a government together with the NRANC, and became prime minister of Northern Rhodesia. Two years later the parliament decreed the dissolution of the federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, and on 24 October 1964 Kaunda became the first president of independent Zambia.
As in many other post-colonial African countries, Kaunda ruled by preventing any form of dissent, and in fact only his party participated in the elections. He voluntarily resigned in 1991, after years of severe economic crisis, indicating for his succession the first democratic elections open to several parties.